HENDERSON, Ky. (WEHT) — Highway 41 between Evansville and Henderson is a busy stretch of road that was the focus of a two-plus years, multi-million dollar project known as the “Fix For 41.”
No doubt the “Fix For 41” has made for a smoother ride, but some people are questioning the safety of that busy stretch of road at night. You’ll notice something missing on Highway 41 between Waterworks Road and the I- 69 overpass.
At night time, the road lights aren’t on and haven’t been on for a long time.
Why is that?
It’s a question Eyewitness News has been asking and you won’t believe what we learned.
During the day, it’s something you wouldn’t think twice about. Driving from Henderson to Evansville on Highway 41 seems pretty normal. Especially after “Fix For 41”. When the sun goes down, the street lights on the Indiana side don’t come on.
“As you know ‘Fix For 41’ just finished up and one of the things we’ve been getting quite a few calls on is the lighting down here. ‘What’s going on?’ “Why’s it not on?’ Well, this is actually something we’ve been working on for quite a few months, getting our lights replaced,” Jason Tiller explains.
Jason Tiller with the Indiana Department of Transportation says they found something disturbing when they looked a little closer.
“Once the project was finished, we started to notice that there were a few more inconsistencies that were going on with these light posts and we got in and started investigating and found that the copper wiring in a lot of these light posts have actually been stolen out of it,” Tiller says.
No one seems to know when the thefts happened.
“So, within the last two and a half years. It could have been going on as far back as then because we had lights off for utility work and things like that,” Tiller explains.
Indiana State Police say on November 25th a report was filed for the stolen wiring.
Officials with INDOT say it doesn’t take more than a screwdriver to get into one of these light poles. However, they are live, so pulling any type of wiring out could be deadly.
But for mothers like Brooke Tate, who travel the highway almost every day, she knows first hand the hazard no lights have caused.
“Definitely, like when there’s cars pulled over on the side of the road. It’s hard to see if there’s someone outside of their car and they need to get over. Or if it’s raining it makes it harder to see anything in the road or anything like that,” Brooke Tate explains.
And it’s even more stressful when her kids are in the car.
“I have a two-year-old and a seven-month-old, so I am nervous that if I am driving and someone doesn’t see me or if it’s at night and raining and I can’t see me and they hit me and I get into a bad accident with my children it’s definitely scary,” Tate says.
Tiller says during construction, they wouldn’t have had crews out checking things like this because of the other work being done.
“And in this case, it may be a little dark but cars are equipt with headlights and lights are more of a convenience thing in this instance,” Tiller explains.
He says INDOT is no stranger to crime like this.
“We’ve had copper stolen out of light posts before in different areas, but never quite to this extent.”
So what comes next?
“We actually may end up having to do some utility work. We actually may end up having to have a contractor replace some of this stuff,” Tiller tells Eyewitness News. “At this time we really don’t have a timeline, unfortunately. Copper wiring issues are more difficult to fix.”
So until then, it will still be dark on 41. INDOT officials were not able to tell us how many street lights had wire stolen. They also aren’t sure how much it will cost to fix the lights.
(This story was originally published on December 10, 2019)